After every trip, I review what gear worked well (or not), what I didn’t use, and what I wish I had brought. I factor in comfort, convenience, safety, and packability. It’s a constant balance, as I take a minimalist approach to packing. This makes having the right gear, gadgets and clothing even more important. Below you will find links to my go-to travel items that I’ve literally spent years refining.
If you’d rather cut to the chase, feel free to…
Bags and Packs
My family has converted to Osprey carry-on size packs for virtually all trips. The freedom to go up/down stairs, race around train stations, and navigate across cobblestone and dirt paths make packs priceless. The benefits of carry-on are pretty obvious…especially if you ever had your bag lost! We have the 3 packs listed below and I like each for given situations but gravitate to the Farpoint 40 as it’s the smallest.
- Osprey Farpoint 40 (no daypack included)
- Osprey Farpoint 55 (daypack included)
- Osprey Meridian Rolling Pack (daypack included; borderline size for carry-on)
- Secondary Carry-On Bag (I prefer this messenger bag to a daypack)
- GORUCK GR1 and GR2 (military-grade; community recommendation)
- Red Oxx Mini Boss (small carry-on; community recommendation)
- Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack (ultralight; very small)
- Thule Electronics Carrying Case (key those cords / chargers organized)
- Eagle Creak Packing Cubes (If you haven’t switched to cubes, you’re missing the boat!)
- Eagle Creak Shoe Bags (Who wants dirty shoes touching their clothes?)
- Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Sac (I just like Medium, and use for dirty laundry; Small good for children)
Travel in Comfort
Air travel (especially economy class) can be incredibly exhausting and uncomfortable. However, there are things you can do to make it bearable, if not outright pleasant. If you don’t have lounge access and TSA Pre-Check / Global Entry, read my Travel Hacking Series. These are included with top travel cards. Read Cone of Silence for my method to travel in peace and quiet. If you can do one thing (besides upgrading to first class) to improve your travel experience, invest in a good noise cancelling headset. Flip the switch and the airport and plane noise vanish and you enter your own little peaceful world.
- Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) Wireless Headphones
- Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i Wireless Bluetooth Over-Ear Headphones
- Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WH1000XM3
- Flight Flap Phone Holder (great for watching movies)
- Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow (packs small for a travel pillow; can wear with over-ear headset)
- Alaska Bear Natural Silk Sleep Mask (comfortable; breathable)
- Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs (swimmer plugs; comfortable)
- Nufoot Men’s Travel Slippers (Totally dorky, but better than barefoot, stinky socks, or wearing shoes.)
- Valerian Root (natural sleep remedy)
With the advancement of camera technology there is no excuse to not get great images. Even phones are producing stunning images…as they say, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” If you haven’t kept up, Sony has stolen the show, from point-and-shoots to full-frame mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras.
- Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI (largely considered the best point-and-shoot on the market; “These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings”)
- Moment iPhone lenses (these are pretty cool; you’ll just need to buy a new phone case as your phone changes; check out the 18mm lens)
- Sony A7 III Full-Frame Mirrorless (Pro-level mirrorless at a great price point)
- Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 for Sony Mirrorless (Hard to just pick one lens, but if you have to, take a look at the reviews on this Tamron)
Chargers, Carabiners, etc.
Our phones have become our lifeline. Don’t leave yourself reliant on finding an outlet or charging station. Also, check out my latest gadget addition…the carabiner / bottle opener!
- iMuto 20000mAh Portable Charger (large, but can charge multiple times)
- Anker Astro E1 Candy-Bar Sized Ultra Compact Portable Charger
- Foval Power Converter / Adaptors (supports 150 countries); this isn’t exactly small, so perhaps best for a family needing multiple ports
- Carabiners (attach water bottles, sleep pillow, etc. to pack)
- Carabiner / Bottle Opener (can’t use for climbing, but you can open your beer)
- Tile Mate (find your luggage, wallet, keys, etc)
There is a lot more to safety than a few gadgets, but the below items are a good start.
- Tactical Pen (great defensive weapon, passes TSA inspection)
- Money Belt (RFID blocking)
- Petzl e+LITE Emergency Headlamp (the smallest headlamp I’ve found)
- SureFire Sidekick Ultra-Compact Keychain Light (expensive, but incredibly powerful)
- Emergency Whistle (has a little clip to attach to your bag)
- Portable Door Lock (see how easy standard hotel locks are to open)
- Luggage Lock (TSA approved cable locks)
- Logitech Indoor/Outdoor Security Camera (monitor your home while away)
- Ring Video Doorbell (answer your door / see deliveries while away)
I have a sensitive stomach but feel street food is an essential part of travel. I triple dose Vitamin C as well as take 5-drops of oregano oil under my tongue prior to and during travel. I also bring a pharmacy so I don’t have to rely on finding care.
- Trauma Kit (they don’t carry the nice one I have pictured above anymore, but I have the linked kit in our kitchen and every vehicle)
- Pill Organizer (pictured above; very convenient)
- Oreganol (nature’s antibiotic)
- Imodium A-D (A-D means anti-diarrhea…need I say more)
- Pepto-Bismol (keep your upset stomach at bay)
- Emergen-C Electrolyte Mix (good if you do get sick…forget sugary Gatorade)
Not a very glamorous category, but the little things make the difference. If you read my Cuba post, you’ll know that TP was in short supply as was soap/water.
- Toiletry Bag (small, light, and simple)
- Microfiber Towel (little quick dry towels always come in handy; bigger ones are nice for showers and the beach)
- Bath Wipes (for long flights or when a shower isn’t convenient)
- Clorox Wipes (wipe your airplane tray, seat, and armrests)
- Sleep Sheet (for questionable sheets or if bedbugs give you the creeps)
- Laundry Kit (one of the keys to packing light)
- Toilet Paper (Can you spare a square!)
Snacks and Drinks
Never assume you will be served food on your flight, have time during your layover, or that you will easily find a meal when you land. We all know how grumpy you can get! I found plenty of tea in Japan, but my coffee packets saved me several times.
I’ve never had any of these snacks taken, but always good to check country restrictions, particularly with nuts and fruit.
Save the jungle-wear for the jungle and leave your zip-off ExOfficio pants at home. It’s a balance of form and function. There are other non-wrinkle, quick dry alternatives that won’t draw stares in a Paris cafe. I use Bluffworks clothing for work and travel.
- Bluffworks Clothing (Secret pockets; don’t wrinkle; coming out with jeans soon!) See my full review.
- Compression Socks (reduce swelling and risk of blood clots, I actually had a friend almost die from this)
- Daily Socks (short compression socks; great for walking)
- KUHL Clothing (more casual, active clothing)
- ExOfficio Antimicrobial Boxers (these are great, I have every color)
- Travel Shorts (casual, with zipper pockets to avoid losing passport/wallet)
My girls pretty much wear their normal clothing, but try to find items that are good for hand washing. My wife did try the Tieks shoes for 3-weeks in Japan and loved them. Here are a few brands to consider when shopping.
- Athleta Clothing
- KUHL Clothing
- Icebreaker Clothing
- REI Clothing
- Tieks Shoes (pack very small)
- Compression Socks
I’ve used the majority of these products, with the exception of the women’s clothes (besides the above outfit, of course!). I’ve had some of my items for years, so linked to the newest model or equivalent where applicable. A few of the items were recommendations from the analytical traveler community. Please let me know if you have a bad experience with any of the items. Also, drop me a line if you have any essential gear I missed!
Related Posts / Guides
- Packing Guide
- Cone of Silence
- 14 Must-Have Travel Items to Add to Your Packing List
- Travel Gear Checklist (downloadable spreadsheet)
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I earn a small commission if you make a purchase using these links. If you have any questions about the companies or my status as an affiliate, please don’t hesitate to email me. My full Affiliate Disclosure can be found here.
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